The US Air Force will use the T-X jet trainer replacement as the guinea pig for an upcoming wave of cost-cutting experiments that will search for places where platform capability can be reasonably sacrificed in exchange for acquisition cost reduction.

Air force officials have finalised the requirements for the T-X, which will replace the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon, which fighter and bomber pilots fly in preparation for helming combat aircraft. Plans are to deliver the requirements to industry by the end of the month, service secretary Deborah Lee James said 13 February at the Air Force Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

At that time, the air force will consider the requirements final, James says. A request for proposals is expected in late fiscal year 2016. The proposals will then be the first of four programmes to undergo a cost-capability analysis (CCA) to find areas where the air force can shave requirements to save on cost.

“This way we intend to make well-informed judgments about whether or not various incremental changes, increases in capability, are worth it from the cost perspective and the capability perspective,” she says. “Industry will know when the time comes how much we value these capabilities.”

“We really are using the T-X as a test case, you might say.”

T-X requirements have been widely speculated upon and the air force has long kept details on what exactly it wants in an aircraft to train F-35 pilots close to the vest. A major decision will be whether the aircraft should be capable of supersonic speeds, which has a significant impact on the cost of the airframe and engines.

Several companies plan to offer production aircraft for the programme. Others have left their capability options open by designing a clean-sheet aircraft that can be tailored to air force needs. Northrop Grumman most recently withdrew the BAE Systems Hawk from contention, opting instead to have its Scaled Composites subsidiary develop a new aircraft.

Boeing has teamed with Saab for the competition in a field that also includes a General Dynamics/Alenia Aermachi team offering the T-100, a modified M-346; and Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries team working on the T-50.

William LaPlante described how the CCA approach would differ from traditional acquisition strategies and how the current analysis of alternatives (AoA) process is flawed.

“Cost-capability analysis, we think, is a fundamental tool to how we’re going to buy innovative capabilities,” he says. “Often times in industry you tell us to set the requirements, give us a couple of years, let us understand what you’re going to value at source selection.”

Where the AoA process simply compares the relative capabilities of various offerings, the CCA will prioritize the relative value of capabilities based both on their necessity to accomplish a particular mission and their price tag.

“It’s not enough to say here’s the threshold requirement and here’s the objective requirement,” LaPlante says. “We have to know more. We have to know which of those means more to the warfighter, which is of more value. Cost capability analysis is a way to determine that.”

LaPlante says the air force used the CCA process when it bought the Boeing F-15 Eagle passive/active warning survivability system (EPAWSS). By weighing the different offerings for the programme to integrate fifth-generation electronic warfare capabilities into legacy aircraft, the air force eliminated those below the minimum acceptable capability and those with the greatest cost, resulting in the technologies with most “efficient” capability to expense ratio, he says.

“If we do this with industry on programmes like T-X, there will be a much better understanding of what we’re paying for and what we’re willing to pay for,” LaPlante says.

Three other programmes will serve as “pilots” for the CCA process. They are the long-range standoff weapon, the follow-on to the space-based infrared system (SIBRS) and the multi-domain adaptable processing system (MAPS), which is envisioned as a pod to enable communications between stealth fighters.

Source: Cirium Dashboard